Tuesday, February 22, 2011
They're doing it without us
Rendering a decade of U.S. policy irrelevant, the people of the Middle East are transforming the region themselves.By Andrew J. Bacevich
February 20, 2011
The ongoing upheaval in the Arab world (and in Iran) has rendered a definitive judgment on U.S. policy over the last decade. Relying on their own resources and employing means of their own devising, the people of the Middle East intent on transforming that region have effectively consigned the entire "war on terror" to the category of strategic irrelevance.
When first conceived in the wake of 9/11, two convictions underpinned that war. According to the first, precluding further attacks on the United States meant that the Islamic world needed to change. According to the second, because Muslims were manifestly unable to change on their own, the United States needed to engineer the process, with American military might serving as catalyst. Freedom (or at least submission) would issue from the barrel of a GI's assault rifle.
In Afghanistan, then Iraq and now, of course, AfPak, U.S. efforts to promote change have achieved — at best — mixed results. Meanwhile, the costs incurred have proved painfully high. In terms of treasure expended, lives lost and moral authority squandered, Americans have paid a lot and gotten precious little in return.
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It now turns out that those exertions were unnecessary or, at the very least, superfluous. For nine years, the U.S. has been pushing in on a door that opens outward. More amazing still, that door swings open of its own volition. Events of the last several weeks have made it abundantly clear not only that important parts of the Islamic world are ripe for change but that the impetus for change comes from within. Transformation is not something that outsiders can induce or impose or control. The process is organic, spontaneous and self-sustaining.
So poor Muslims tired of living in squalor, and the not-so-poor fed up with suffering under the boot of corrupt authoritarian regimes (not infrequently allied with the United States), don't need Washington's coaching. They don't need us to "liberate" them. They are perfectly capable of liberating themselves. And their doing so basically doesn't cost the American taxpayer a nickel.
Whether Muslim self-liberation will see the rise of prosperous, stable, liberal democracies, tolerant of Israel and friendly to the West, remains to be seen. Yet with the United States doing little more than bearing witness — no need for an Operation Egyptian Freedom consuming hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives — the prospects of democratic change in Egypt and elsewhere in the region are greater today than at any time in memory.
For the inhabitants of the Islamic world, the moment is rich with possibility. For Americans, that moment is equally rich in irony.
Intent on positioning themselves on "the right side of history," senior U. S. officials busily amend whatever pronouncements they issued a week ago, hoping no one will notice. Determined to sustain the pretense that the United States remains capable of exercising "global leadership," pundits and policy analysts discreetly tap into Al Jazeera English in hopes of figuring out what's actually going on.
Yet Americans might also consider this an educational opportunity, with humility and contrition the order of the day, seasoned perhaps with a glimmer of hope. Here's what we should learn.
First, when it comes to divining history's purposes and intentions, the world's only superpower is clueless. "The whole drama of history," the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once observed, "is enacted in a frame of meaning too large for human comprehension or management." True when he wrote it more than half a century ago, the passage remains true today, notwithstanding the wonders of computers, iPhones and social networking.
Second, to disregard Niebuhr's counsel is to incur severe penalties. Arrogance invites punishment. The punishment that the United States has sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan merits not simply remembrance but sorrowful reflection: These were needless losses. For those who once advocated preventive war as the shortest path to peace, sackcloth and ashes might be appropriate.
At the same time, however, we might take some small consolation in this: The demonstrators filling the streets in Cairo, Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Manama, Sana and Tehran give every indication of dreaming dreams not entirely dissimilar from our own. Rather than rejecting modernity, as radical Islamists such as Osama bin Laden have urged, these protesters want a bigger slice of what modernity has to offer. Though not guaranteeing harmonious coexistence, this convergence of aspirations does suggest that a cosmic clash of civilizations is avoidable.
If the Muslim masses demanding political freedom and economic opportunity prevail, they will do so not thanks to but despite the United States. Yet by liberating themselves, they will also liberate us. Our misbegotten crusade to determine their destiny will finally end. In that case, we will owe them a great debt.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War."
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
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James O at 11:00 AM February 22, 2011
The Muslim world may be ending their version of the Dark Ages. In Western Civilization we had the classical period of the Greeks and Romans followed by the Dark Ages and then the Renaissance. The Muslim world had their classical period after Mohammed where math and science was preserved but after decline and western meddling, extreme fundamentalism gained traction. I don't know what the Arabic word for renewal or "Renaissance" is but it would be good for the world if this happened and even better that is on their own terms rather than an outside power forcing it down their throats.gregdn at 8:11 AM February 22, 2011
Excellent article Mr. Bacevich. The notion that America was going to 'change the Middle East' always struck me as a prime example of hubris.Opticon180 at 7:19 PM February 21, 2011
SHARIA LAW is NOT compatible with DEMOCRACY...because the rights of gays, women & FORMER Muslims will be SQUASHED like a bug:
% of Muslims who want DEATH PENALTY for those leaving Islam:
% of Muslims endorsing STONING TO DEATH of adulterers (98% WOMEN):
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
threats and have therefore raised their security level from "Miffed" to
"Peeved." Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to
"Irritated" or even “A Bit Cross." The English have not been "A Bit
Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.
Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "A Bloody
Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning
level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada. The Scots have raised their threat level from "Pissed Off" to "Let's get
the Bastards."They don't have any other levels. This is the reason they
have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years. The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror
alert level from "Run" to "Hide." The only two higher levels in France
are "Collaborate" and "Surrender." The rise was precipitated by a recent
fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing
the country's military capability. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout Loudly and Excitedly" to
"Elaborate Military Posturing." Two more levels remain: "Ineffective
Combat Operations" and "Change Sides." The Germans have increased their alert state from "Disdainful Arrogance"
to "Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs." They also have two higher
levels: "Invade a Neighbor" and "Lose." Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only
threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels. The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy.
These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish
navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy. Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from "No worries" to
"She'll be alright, Mate." Two more escalation levels remain: "Crikey! I
think we'll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!" and "The barbie is
canceled." So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final
escalation level. -- John Cleese - British writer, actor and tall person Received via Veterans for Peace VFP 101 (local group) :-)
-- Larry Devich http://larry-devich.blogspot.com/ It is more blessed to ask forgiveness than permission
We're well and truly hosed. Enjoy things while you can because in a few years it's going to be very grim in the American Empire.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
When Serenity and I were at the park today with some other homeschooling families, enjoying the warm sunshine of February, a group of high school kids arrived at the park, one dressed in pink as a pig. The story was he had asked a girl to the winter formal dance and she said "When Pigs Fly" and this was his reaction to that. Supposedly the girls mom was supposed to get her to the park to see him up in the air but we left before she got there so we don't know the result of the boy's efforts. I sort of hope he got the date after all of that effort. :-)
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Doomsday prophet: End of the world is on schedule
It had been a few months since I dropped in on Harold Camping, the Oakland minister who believes the world will end May 21.
I was happy to see that Camping, a more frail 89 years than I had remembered, had at least maintained his apocalyptic sense of humor.
"I thought you were dead!" he said as we sat down in his office.
"Only a few more months," I responded.
Camping wagged a finger at me. "One hundred twenty one days."
Since our last visit, Camping's lights-out prediction had gone global -- much to his enjoyment. As the final date approaches, he's been swamped with media requests. He wedged our meeting among interviews with the Times of London, a score of bloggers, television producers and a Philadelphia morning zoo radio show.
"My life is not my own these days," he said. "I have no time for fun or pleasure. It's all about the interviews."
It was a good time to talk Armageddon. In the past few weeks, flocks of birds had fallen from the skies, persuading those unconvinced by the laws of science that it was, in fact, a sign of The End of Times.
"I didn't read anything in the Bible that talks of birds dying off as a sign," Camping said. "That's mankind doing the talking, not the Bible."
Director George Lucas had also reportedly given his blessing to the notion that the Mayan calendar's 2012 doomsday prediction was on target.
Camping offered what sounded like a practiced sound bite to respond to the Lucas report. "Phooey," he said. "Like a lot of people, he grabs at 2012 because he needs something to believe in. But it's all speculation."
What remains unquestioned, in Camping's mind, is that the world will come to an end in a matter of weeks. Each time I've met with him I've asked him if this makes him sad. Or angry. Or anything else but delighted.
"I gotta admit," he said, "that I do find myself thinking more and more about how short the time is. And how it goes by so quick. It's as if the mind is not capable of comprehending this."
Outside his office, Camping's employees were busy hand-washing a new fleet of RVs emblazoned with Bible verse and the proclamation, "May 21, 2011: Judgment is Coming!"
Above the passenger side door on each RV, one of of those red anti-circles was painted over "2012." The popular 2012 myth, as Camping dismissed it, at least served as an entry point for his followers to discuss the true Armageddon with the curious.
The five-vehicle caravan was headed to Florida the following week. Along the way they'd stop in small towns and big cities to share Camping's proofs and try to save as many souls as possible.
According to Camping's reading of the Bible, only those who are saved will enter heaven May 21.
"You better start pleading with God now," Camping warned. "He doesn't save people who are egotistical."JUSTIN BERTON is a general assignment reporter at The San Francisco Chronicle. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/justinberton
Listed Under: Predictions